POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 26, 2012:
The Horror of a Delicious Show
Frank-N-Furter rides again, and the Nightingale gets wacky
For the seventh or eighth time, Chad Oliverson is climbing back into the thigh-highs.
When Tulsa Project Theatre (TPT) opens the weekend, Oliverson will reprise his role as the unhinged-but-beautiful Dr. Frank-N-Furter, but the actor says that, without exception, every year is very different.
"We've done it in so many different settings and with different casts, it's almost like a brand new show every time," he said. "There are new sets, new venues, new directors. I keep things I like, but when you do a role more than once, you can look back and change this or that."
True to what is apparently Tulsa's Rocky's form, this year's production is filled with new things -- new set, choreographer Heather Hall-Newman is directing, TPT is using its resident music director Kent Dennis, who takes the reins from the longest-running music director of the show. And there's quite a bit of turnover in the cast.
"There are only four people in this show that have done it before, and I'm the only one who's done it all the way through," Oliverson said.
Returning with him are fellow Equity actors Bob Hendricks and Claire Kifer, as well as TPT's de facto beautiful dancer Janna O'Leary.
"Janna was in the chorus a few years ago, and now, she's moved into the role of Janet," Oliverson said. "That's been so special to see her sort of morph into this role. She's wonderful."
With all those changes, and the fact that they keep coming, Oliverson said he's got an uncommon opportunity.
"A lot of times, you do a role, and then you look back and say, 'I wish I'd do this or that a different way,'" he said. "But in repeating this role, I can look back and say, 'I didn't like that,' and then I get a chance to do it again. And as I've grown up, he's grown up."
Frank is growing up? Seriously? And while I'm at it, Chad's growing up? Who knew?
"I think some of who Frank is will never, ever change," Oliverson said. "It will always be the same because it works. But I think this year, what you'll see that's different is a little more control, maybe he's a little more subtle."
Regarding growing up, Oliverson points to life experiences in general, and really, just the passage of time.
"I think training in acting is life," he opined. "I've had the training, I have the degree, but becoming a better actor is life and life experiences. It's how you view things, and the more people you meet, the more experiences you have, the more you can pull from as an actor. So as things happen around you and in the world, you can take that stuff to your character."
Ever mindful of his (occasionally rabid) fan base, Oliverson address the changes audiences might see.
"Parts of Frank you can't get rid of -- it's there, and the audience is expecting it. It's who that character is," he said.
Irrespective of (and perhaps because of) the changes in Oliverson's portrayal of Frank-N-Furter, in the set, in the physical location of the show, in the personnel involved, he holds on to the people who can connect him to past shows.
"It's a comfort to have all three of them [Kifer, Hendricks, and O'Leary], and it's exciting to have the new cast members," he said.
He clearly loves these people.
"Claire has been a friend of mine since she was a kid," he said of Tulsa favorite Kifer. "And she's a great example of what I said about life and experience. She's more mature than when we first started this show. You know, she's had kids, she's had a life, and her take on Magenta is so much different than the first year. It's just great to go offstage and see her there -- there's just this professional, focused lady, and it's really cool to see."
Frank, Magenta, and their minions set upon the hapless Brad and Janet for a three-weekend run beginning Sept. 28-30, and Oct. 5-7 and 18-20. Curtain is at 7:30pm for all dates, with an additional 2pm matinee each Saturday and Sunday. Tickets range from $20 to $30 and are available at tulsaprojecttheatre.com.
Warm, Delicious Play
John Cruncleton is by turns fascinating and ineffable when talking about his theatrical comings and goings. As the artistic director for the Midwestern Theater Troupe -- the resident company at the Nightingale Theater -- he has been responsible for some fascinating theater. And, okay, some weird stuff, too. He's also an astoundingly gifted shadow puppeteer. Yes, that's a real thing, and no, I'm not being facetious.
The fact that he writes a lot of the stuff he puts on just makes him that much cooler. To wit, this week's Warm, Delicious Play is his latest opus, and it springs from two other shows he'd already written.
"The first show we ever did in the Nightingale was a show I wrote called Romolo the Great, and we followed it with Warm, Delicious Play," he said, though that was not the same Warm, Delicious Play as this one. "They both took place in the same universe. Now we've taken both scripts and put them together, and there's really nothing left of the original pieces. It's the same essential narrative, but it's expanded and repaired and combined and transfigured."
The story -- and hold on tight, boys and girls -- involves a witch, her daughters' kidnappers, their flea circus that performs for the audience watching the play, a mute clown, an infernal machine, transmigratory possession, and an ectoplasmic byproduct (of the infernal machine) called glop.
Cruncleton said that the mouthful in that last paragraph actually comes together in a fun and funny show.
"It's a clown show," he said. "It's a lot of fun, and it's zany, but it also tries to plumb some deep metaphysical ideas."
So one lesson here is that "metaphysical" and "zany" can peacefully coexist. Who knew?
"I've had a lot of fun weaving these characters into the same fabric," he said. "I hope I've done it in an elegant way. I want people to be swept along in the fun of it and experience those dream-like elements subconsciously. Ultimately, I think that's the goal of this show -- transport the audience into a dream-like state."
For all the fun and fleas in the circus, this show has been in the works several months longer than was intended. When it opens on Friday, it will be an example of the third time being the charm, as the show has had two other scheduled premiere dates, each of which got pushed back, but not for any foreboding reasons.
"Joseph Gomez has been intended to be part of the cast since the beginning, and he had a schedule conflict come up," Cruncleton said. "I can always use more time, so we put it off. Then we had some production delays. We just realized we had a couple of more weeks to get our stuff together."
Together or not, the show goes up this week, with a rather sizable cast.
"We've got about eight principles, and I've got musicians and auxiliary clowns, as well," Cruncleton said. Appearing in the show alongside Gomez are Jeremy Sheldon, newcomer Mick Swinney, Cruncleton, and Nightingale mainstays Sara Wilemon and Sara Cruncleton.
The show runs Sept. 28-29, Oct. 5-6 and 12-13. Tickets are $10 and available at the door. For more information, visit nightingaletheater.com.
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